Victoria's Streetcar


April 6 1889::The National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company Limited was established in Victoria.

February 22 1890::Victoria completed the construction of  a 5 mile streetcar system, making it the third Canadian city to adopt the new transportation system. The system comprised of 2 lines, or routes, and 4 cars.

May 26 1894::Point Ellice Bridge collapsed when an overloaded streetcar was crossing, sinking the streetcar and killing 55 passengers.1

April 17 1896::BC's 3 streetcar systems were united as the Consolidated Railway Company.

April 3 1897::The Consolidated Railway Company was sold and renamed the British Columbia Electric Railway Company Limited.

December 5 1938::BC Electric's franchise to provide Victoria transportation was set to expire. By this time there existed 39 streetcars providing service throughout Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, and Oak Bay.

February 14 1940::BC Electric added a bus service to Victoria's streetcar system to accommodate the high transport to and from Esquimalt's naval barracks.2

June 1 1944::The streetcar system officially began its dismantling in Victoria, making way for an all bus line.

July 5 1948::Victoria's last streetcar took its last ride before all of the tracks were torn up.

Laying the tracks

Laying the tracks Tracks being laid at
Douglas and Pandora
Before the streetcar's arrival in Victoria, the main form of public transportation was horse drawn carriages, known as hackney coaches. The introduction of the streecar meant Victorians could get around town more reliably and, by limiting the health hazard of manure, more safely. The Victoria streetcar system began with two primary lines, adding more as needed as time went on. Line number one began at outer wharf, continuing "via Erie, St. Lawrence, and Superior streets, to Government Street (Birdcage Walk, at its southern end), then east on Yates Street to Douglas Street, and north on Douglas to the Fountain (Hillside Avenue)."3 This is the line that the 1907 streetcar ride footage follows, however it is heading in the opposite direction beginning south on Douglas Street, turning west on Yates, and finally turning south again onto Government Street.

Line number two

Inside the trolley Inside the streetcar
The second line began at the car barn (just south of Rock Bay Bridge) heading south on Store Street, then east on Johnson Street to Government Street, south on Government to Fort Street, and east on Fort, past the palatial home (at 1501) of D.W. Higgins, Regent's Park, to Jubilee Hospital (under construction at the time) at Richmond Road, the city's limits.4

Small change

Employees at the car barn. In front of the car barn
The initial fare to ride one of Victoria's streetcars was 5 cents.5 In May 1 1896, the National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company Limited was bought out by Frank Stillman Barnard, who owned the other 2 BC streetcar systems.6 The sale of the streetcar was upsetting for Victorians because they could no longer have any say or control over it.

 Trolley goes to war

The trolley wears a victory poster. Victory loan poster
Although the BC Electric Railway Company's franchise was set to expire in 1938, the company extended it to continue to provide Victoria with transportation until some other system could takeover completely.7 As Canada entered the war, Victoria's streetcar system was in high enough demand that BC Electric added an electric bus service. Streetcar interiors and exteriors were emblazoned with victory posters to encourage Victorians to do their part. Victoria's streetcars and buses took part in blackout attempts by curtailing their schedules, blacking out headlights, and using a skip-stop system to accommodate gas rationing.8 The war also enabled women to work as conductors and guides for the streetcars.

The end of the line

The last run. The last ride
The BC Electric Company was no longer the only transportation company in town. Blue Line Transit and Vancouver Island Coach Lines both provided their own bus services to the city. BC Electric purchased Blue Line on September 3,1946 and planned to discontinue its trolley services completely, using only buses.9 By 1950, BC Electric also acquired Vancouver Island Coach Lines. Gradually, diesel buses replaced the electric buses, making the electric transportation era in Victoria little more than a memory.

    1 Henry Ewert. Victoria's Streetcar Era (Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1992), 33.

    2 Ewert, 90.

    3 Ewert, 16.

    4 Ewert, 16-17.

    5 Henry Ewert. The Story of the B.C. Electric Railway Company (North Vancouver: Whitecap Books Ltd., 1986), 13.

    6 Ewert, Victoria's Streetcar, 33-34.

    7 Ewert, Victoria's Streetcar, 87.

    8 Ewert, Victoria's Streetcar, 91-92.

    9 Ewert, Victoria's Streetcar, 126.